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UN calls on US to stop separating migrant children from parents

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Hundreds of immigrant rights advocates and others participate in rally and and demonstration at the Federal Building in lower Manhattan against the Trump administration\'s policy that enables federal agents to take migrant children away from their parents

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07th-Jun-2018       
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Reuters, Geneva :
The United Nations called on the United States on Tuesday to stop detaining irregular migrant families and separating children on its frontier with Mexico, saying this broke the law.
Several hundred children crossing the southern U.S. border have been held in custody since October 2017 following an executive order issued by President Donald Trump when he took office in January 2016, it said.
"The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalising what should at most be an administrative offence - that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S.," U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva.
"Entering a country without the relevant papers should not be a criminal offence...so these people should not be detained," she said, adding that some children were very young, including a one-year-old infant.
Poverty, as well as deepening violence from criminal gangs and drug traffickers has driven hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to try to cross the U.S. border illegally or seek asylum in the country.
The Trump administration will soon begin fingerprinting parents claiming custody of children who entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, officials said a week ago, prompting criticism that children may be abandoned by those who fear being identified and deported.
Shamdasani, asked about comments by senior U.S. officials that it was normal to remove children from parents in custody, said: "There is nothing normal about detaining children.
"Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation," she said.
The United States - the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child - still has obligations as a signatory to that treaty and as a party that has ratified other rights treaties, Shamdasani said
"Our position is that preserving family unity is a fundamental tenet of refugee protection," U.N. refugee agency spokesman William Spindler said.
Truth NGO - UN human rights office says implementation of policy on US-Mexico amounts to a violation of child rights.
The UN human rights office is calling on the administration of US President Donald Trump to "immediately halt" its policy of separating children from their parents after crossing the US border with Mexico.
Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani scolded the US for its "zero tolerance" policy in which some families have been separated after crossing the border.
The rights office said in a statement that "children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents' migration status. Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation."
Shamdasani told a UN briefing Tuesday that the practice of separating families amounted to an "arbitrary and unlawful" interference in family life, calling it a "serious violation" of the rights of children, the Associated Press reported.
Hundreds of children have been separated from their parents, who were detained after making the crossing.
Thousands more have been detained after entering the US alone.
Officials say that around 1,500 children who arrive at the border by themselves are unaccounted for, according to figures first reported by the New York Times and the Associated Press last month.
The scale of those numbers, has sparked concern that some of the children may have fallen into the hands of human traffickers.
The Trump administration has beefed up security on the US-Mexico border and has vowed to prosecute refugees and migrants who attempt to cross it.
"If you cross the border unlawfully .. then we will prosecute you," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said earlier this month.
"If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law," he added.
"If you don't want your child separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally. It's not our fault that somebody does that."
The policy marks a break with the previous precedent, which allowed families to stay together pending deportation.
Politicians from the Democratic Party have called the policy one of Trump's most inhumane and cruel.

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